Sevens loophole closure to dent Armitage switch

 
Ross McLean
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Steffon Armitage looked to exploit loophole
ENGLAND outcast Steffon Armitage has been warned to forget about switching his allegiance to France ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The Toulon No8 was crowned European player of the season last term but has not donned an England shirt since 2010 due to the Rugby Football Union’s stance of not selecting foreign based players.

Armitage let it be known he might attempt to qualify for Les Tricolores by exploiting a loophole in the International Rugby Board (IRB) qualifying regulations linked with Sevens becoming an Olympic Sport in 2016.

The loophole allows players to play Sevens rugby for another nation if they hold a passport for their new country and have not played in the international arena for 18 months.

Armitage could theoretically play in the forthcoming IRB World Sevens Series for France and then see his eligibility carried forward into the 15-man game.

But the IRB have moved to block any attempts by players to use the loophole as a mechanism for solidifying their wider international ambitions.

“There is a safety net and a regulations committee will look at all applications for transfer and look to see if it’s for bona fide Sevens reasons,” said IRB chief Brett Gosper.

The World Cup hopes of Leicester Tigers skipper Ed Slater, meanwhile, have been dealt a blow with the news a knee problem sustained on England’s summer tour of New Zealand will sideline him for up to nine months.

The injury Slater picked up while playing for England’s midweek side against the Canterbury Crusaders in June transpired to be worse than first feared and required surgery, although Leicester’s Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill insists an international future still beckons.

Cockerill said: “He’s had some really bad luck but we’ll get him right and no doubt he will push for England honours again.”